“Room mikes were ribbon mikes!” he exclaims. “A pair of Royer 121 ribbon mikes placed as far away as possible near the corners of the room about 15'—18' away from the kit, with the snare as the center anchor. I also used a pair of Coles 4038s along the sides of the room, about 10' away from the snare on each side. These form the basis of a good room sound for me, so I included a bunch of mono room mikes at various distances from the kit as options for mixing as well. A Heil Heritage ’Elvis’-style mike was closest, about 8' from the center of the kit, at about chin height, pointed slightly down towards the kick. This was the ’trashy room’ sound. Also an SM58 about 15' away near the window to the control room. And another 58 right by Roy’s face. It kind of gives a good perspective of what the drummer is hearing while he plays.”
“For the Bonham kit, I placed an Electro-Voice RE-20 close to the middle of the outside kick drum head and moved it around until it sounded the best. For the kick beater side, I used the Heil PR-20 due to its 57-like characteristics, but superior off-axis rejection. Of course, there was still tons of bleed from the snare and hi-hat, but with some careful filtering and compression, this bleed was used to our advantage in creating the whole-kit sound. Snare top was a Shure SM57 placed a bit further away from the drum than it was for the main kit but still hanging over the rim and pointed towards the center of the drum. Snare bottom we used an AKG 414. This mike sounds great on the bottom snares. The natural frequency response of this mike is very favorable to capturing the snap and rattle of the snares. Toms: same kind of setup as above (57s and 421s), except these were pulled back further from the heads, as it allowed for a more open sound.”
For an album that seems to scream “close miking,” Philips used a very detailed overheads and room-miking setup.
“For overheads I went with Neumann U87s placed over the extreme left and right of the kit,” he says, “again with the snare as the center reference. I tend to use the snare as the center rather than the kick, because I usually filter out a bit of the low end from the overheads and let the kick mikes provide most of the kick sound [along with the rooms]. The 87s work really well on a big, ’tone-y’ drum sound, whereas I like to use pencil mikes as overheads for more aggressive and precise drum sounds. The 87s were placed fairly high over the kit so they were more like true overheads. I used the same mikes for the room sounds on the ’Bonham’ kit, repositioned around the room. Since we were jumping back and forth between both setups, I documented settings and used masking tape on the floor and walls so I could move the mikes back exactly where they were for both setups.”
What kind of compression did Philips favor tracking Roy’s drums?
“I tend to use only a little compression on drums while tracking,” Philips replies. “I used a tiny bit of Distressor on the inside kick track, just to control the attack a bit. On the snare 57 tracks, I used a couple of UREI 1176’s. Usually if I track with an 1176, I’ll use a bit of Distressor in the mix, or vice versa. I also like to use Pultec EQP-1A on kick and snares while tracking, just to give a bit of low and high boost and tube warmth on the way in. I did not compress the Heil snare mike, nor did I compress the toms or any of the close cymbal mikes. The overheads got a gentle squeeze with a stereo Manley Var-Mu Opto Compressor, more for the tube warmth and beautiful tone than any noticeable gain reduction. The Coles room mikes went through a Neve 33609 with slightly more aggressive settings to get a pumping room sound, whereas the Royers were left alone. It’s all about having different options and textures to combine for that perfect sound. Everything else was left alone, except for the Heil Heritage trash room mike, which we went nuts on. I generally have a really midrange-y room mike which I compress the crap out of, or put through an SPL Transient Designer to get some crazy effect. Mixed in just a little, it can add a really aggressive presence to the drum sound!”